David Hare once said: "I try to make all of my plays different, so that nobody can say that they know what a David Hare play is going to be like." Hare's Amy's View is a play that is indeed hard to categorise and therefore lives up to the author's vision well. On one level, it can be seen as a study of a mother-daughter relationship but peel away the layers and you'll find much more.
Director Chris Honer's handling of Hare's richly woven text creates a sense of excitement as the curtains rise. In terms of atmosphere, it feels as if a slice of the West End has been transplanted to Manchester where this production has been eagerly awaited and highly anticipated.
Amy has a strong relationship with her mother, the stage actress, Esme Allen. They trust each other implicitly and are very good 'friends'. However, their relationship is tested to the ultimate limit from the first day that Amy's partner, Dominic is introduced. Dominic is young, ambitious and highly critical of theatre - a philistine in the opinion of Esme, who is very firmly from "the old school". The smell of the grease paint, the wobbly sets, the backstage anecdotes are all course through her veins. As a result, poor Amy is caught in the middle, torn between the mother whose views she trusts and the man whom she believes is the right one for her.
But to say that this domestic dilemma is the essence of Amy's View is to grossly oversimplify it. The play also tackles a hobbyhorse of an issue for keen theatregoers and anyone involved with the stage professionally - how this beloved art form of ours is faring against stiff competition from other forms of entertainment, most notably cinema, which Dominic regards as the dominant art form in modern culture. Also stirred into the dramatic mix is an even more universal concern - how, we all strive for something but will 'sell out' if the price is right.
Everything about the Library Theatre's production is first class. From Sarah Williamson's adaptable set design to the under-the-skin key performances of the small but perfectly formed cast. As Esme, Brigit Forsyth is humorous, energetic, stubborn and prickly - but always likeable, even when she does something quite wrong. Sara Griffiths works wonderfully alongside Forsyth and comes into her own as Amy in the emotional second half. The only real weak link is Jonathan Weir whose media mogul Dominic fails to convince. His emotional range is shown lacking by the consistency of his co-stars.
- Glenn Meads